Can you imagine life without glass in your everyday life? It's tough, especially when you realize that for hundreds of years, glass making was a well kept secret, known only to the lampwork masters - and the skills were passed on through generations, rarely letting someone from the outside onto the techniques. In the early days, it quickly became obvious that glass - besides its outstanding practical use (duh, windows..) - will also become the new fad of jewelry lovers. In the dark ages, only kings were the people whom glass jewelry was available to - and sometimes was valued more than gold, because every had it (gold), and not every kingdom had a good lampwork artist.
The term lampwork also originated in the early times. Right now you can easily get a torch and start melting glass into forms you need, but torches weren't available until last century, so people used special lamps, on top of which artists let their imaginations run wild. Thus the term 'lampwork' originated, as in working with a lamp.
The most favorable type of glass jewelry are handmade lampwork beads. These beads are made from glass - which is the perfect material for artists. The possibilities are pretty much endless, you can melt it and pour into molds, it can be cut and polished into gems (which is absolutely amazing when done right) or it can be stretched, curved, twisted into any shape imaginable. It's no brainer why creative artist around the globe favor glass as one of the most flexible and imaginative materials to work with.
In order to make lampwork glass beads, people (or lampworkers would be the correct term) melt narrow rods of glass (just like you saw in the movies) with the flame of a torch. The molten glass is wound around a mandrel -- a thin length of stainless steel. The space occupied by the mandrel becomes a hole through the bead when the bed is slipped away.
Turning the mandrel and holding it in different positions allows gravity to help the bead take form, although usually artists make it so that the form is roughly what they need (usually leave more than needed), and use other tools to give the bead proper shape. It takes years to master this skill. A professional lampworker understand both the glass and the flame of the torch, he knows how much heat is needed in the proper situation, you wouldn't your bead to melt down on you, would you?
You might have seen glass lampworkers make glass figures in a matter of minutes (there were lots of these videos on youtube), but those people usually devote their whole careers to making glass jewelry or figures, so if you're a novice, you'd better just make a rough shape and then polish it to the final form.
Anyone who's ever seen the spectacular beauty in lampwork beads often wonder exactly how they're made. It's a very detailed process; fun, but also requiring one's total attention. Understanding some of the jargon is a good place to start. This information is also helpful if you're looking for those perfect beads to create your own charm bracelet. Keep in mind this is only a partial list, but it does include some of the more important terminology.
Lampwork beads are made of glass that's been melted with a torch and wrapped around a metal rod. The term itself has been around for hundreds of years. As with most things in life, there are different qualities associated with lampwork beads. Those that are allowed to cool much slower will generally provide a stronger fortitude and won't break as easily. There are those makers, however, who will allow cooling to occur too fast and this can lead to a more fragile bead. The proper term, "annealing", is the process of actually cooling the beads and determines how slowly the glass molecules are allowed to do so. Naturally, the slower the glass cools, the less stressed the bead ultimately is.
Bathe - Bathing refers to the slow heating to keep a bead at a consistent temperature as the maker prepares it for the next step. Remove it too fast from the flame, and the greater the odds are of breakage.
Boil - If you've ever seen tiny "bubbles" in glass, that can be indicative of a too fast heating process, known as "boil".
Cane - This is used to describe the glass rods used in bead making.
COE or Coefficient of Expansion - This is pure math and used to define a glass response to temperature shifts. Different glasses have different COEs.
Controller - This is the area in the actual kiln where the temperatures are regulated. Today's contemporary controllers are technologically advanced and easy to operate.
Enamel - This is the actual color, applied in powder form, used on colored beads.
Fiber Blanket - This is used to ensure a slow glass molecule cool down, thereby ensuring a sturdier bead.
Frit - This is crushed glass some use to add a decorative element.
Kiln - An oven used for ceramic art pottery as well as heating glass.
Mandrel - This is the rod the heated glass is wound on.
Opaque - Solid color finishes that can't be seen through. Sometimes interchanged with "matte"
Oxidizing Flame - These flames offer more oxygen and less fuel. Ideal for making really small beads.
Snips - The small clippers used to cut the glass while it's still hot.
Striker - The tool used to light a torch.
Tumbling - Smoothing the edges for a more matte or opaque finish on a bead.
Vermiculite - This liquid is sometimes used to help in the cooling process right before annealing.
Beads are a really versatile material that can be used for so much. You can make everything from bracelets to beaded bags. It's really satisfying to create your own piece of jewellery - and if you give it as a gift to friends and family it is something they can treasure forever. With a little research and imagination it's easy to create things to sell in markets, shops or online.
How to Profit from Your Own Hand-Crafted Jewelry
Home Jewelry making with beads is becoming more and more popular. The recession is forcing imaginative individuals to make extra income by designing and crafting their own jewelry.
Gone are the days when jewelry could only be created by professional designers. Today, there's an increasing trend of people with a desire to express their creativity by making their own, both for themselves and to sell. The internet accelerates this - with fast-information of fashion, design, and the availability of beads and findings.
Anyone with a creative streak can go online to follow the process through - from design, to buying the materials, to selling the finished jewelry. All they need is a desire to complete their ideas.
Some leave high-flying corporate jobs when they discover jewelry making. Stress of the rat race is replaced by the almost-spiritual experience of creating jewelry. Even children take to making bangles with Troll beads. More for fun than a fad, but encouraged by their parents to expand their creativity. For some, the discovery of hidden talents is start of a future career.
Today's world of mass production encourages women to search for unique jewelry to stand out from the crowd. This desire is also fueling the popularity of DIY jewelry making. Explaining the expanding new bead and craft magazines - along with over-crowded bead and jewelry-making trade shows.
My advice to those who would like to make and sell their own jewelry is "go for it"! Don't hesitate another day. The best time to do anything: is right away. Follow the below steps immediately:
Search online for design ideas
Buy a bead making kit
Book a beading class
Buy a book on making & selling jewelry
Research jewelry marketing
Join eBay to buy supplies & sell your designs
You're looking for the perfect bead for your necklace - well a lampwork bead is a great option. These jewelry accents help to create just the perfect look. Here are some helpful hints if you are thinking about purchasing a lampwork bead for your favorite chain or necklace.
Bear in mind that good quality beads can be either new or old. You may believe that the quality of older beads is much greater than more recently-made ones. Nevertheless, things do not work like this all the time. So long as they are completely dedicated to the trade of crafting these glass beads, new and veteran artists both produce quality work. The physical characteristics of the bead itself are of far greater concern than the bead's age.
Choose expert artisans. It's important that you search out the best crafters when buying these beads. Follow the same procedures or produce the same quality of material. Although there are lampwork bead designers who will tell you that you do not need a kiln to make them, kilns do affect the durability of the bead. Designers who are not competent with kilns may still not produce the durability one would want. The artist should have previous work available, so ask to see some at close quarters if you can. Then you will know what to expect in terms of quality with your own lampwork bead.
You should go in for lampwork beads that are annealed. The bead needs to be properly annealed, which just means heated or cured. This is done so it stays strong and of good quality. You may have a discussion with the merchant as to how the bead has been anealed. Avoid any beads that have been heated using vermiculite, a heated blanket, a crock pot or an open flame instead of a true kiln. The bead will suffer greatly in quality if it has gone through any of these processes. A kiln can still produce improperly done beads, but is nevertheless recommended over other forms of heating.
Watch for a strong body. There should be no sharp edges on a good lampwork bead. On the flip side, all the beads curves and sides must be spherical or puckered. The bead should have no cracks or folds in it. You may concentrate on small corners and at the joints of lampwork beads checking it out for soft spots of crevices. And the stringing point should be solid and without weak points.
The beads you're considering buying must be properly made. If there are pupils, dots or lines attached to the main form of a bead, ensure that these are fused to the piece.
If there is any flexibility at all with any part of your lampwork bead, it wasn't heated appropriately and you shouldn't buy it. You shouldn't notice any powdery bead release coming from your lampwork bead when you tap it. The bead obviously has a design flaw or perhaps it's just a sign of poor craftsmanship. Take some time to see if the bead hangs well when it hangs from your chain. When you shop for lampwork beads, these are all of the things you need to consider.
It is very easy to say that a bead is pretty, but do you really want to choose your jewelry based on looks alone? Whether you are making your own jewelry or buying handmade jewelry from another, you want to know that your pieces are of quality and durability. This means understanding the differences between the different types of beads before you buy.
Types of Beads
There are several different categories of beads for jewelry making. The most common of these are:
Semi precious stones
There are a few other categories of beads as well, such as shell, bone and clay, but these are less common in handmade jewelry. Some of these have obvious differences. After all, the difference between metal and glass is like night and day. However, with other types of beads the differences may be more subtle.
Glass, Crystal, and Plastic
Glass, crystal and plastic are the three beads that cause the most confusion to amateur jewelry makers and those who look at costume jewelry. Glass, crystal and plastic beads can look very similar, and even seem similar to the touch. Plastic beads have come a long way, and are sometimes indistinguishable from glass in every way except weight.
Weight is the easiest way to tell the difference between these three beads. Glass will be heavier than plastic, and crystal will be heavier than glass. There are other differences between them as well.
Glass and crystal are much more durable than plastic. They wear better, and do not break as easily. The biggest difference between glass and crystal is cost. Crystal beads or jewelry will cost three times as much as glass beads or jewelry. The glass can be cut in such a way that it resembles crystal, and you still get that look without the high prices. However, if you want the best in handmade jewelry, you will go for crystal pieces.
Which Type is Most Durable?
Obviously, the most durable type of bead will be the metal beads. These beads can withstand a tremendous amount of pressure. They could be run over by a car and still be intact. However, depending on the type of metal, they can be heavy or expensive. Wood beads are also very durable, but are susceptible to cracking if repeatedly gotten wet and dried such as wearing jewelry in the pool or shower.
For many reasons, glass is the preferred bead type. It is durable and inexpensive. It doesn't matter if it gets wet, and glass too can withstand quite a bit of pressure without breaking. With all of the various patterns and cuts in glass beads, they are very versatile and sometimes unique as well.
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